Bessie Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in July 1894. However, the 1910 census recorded her birthday as April 15, 1894. Orphaned at eight years old, Smith started singing in the streets to help make money to support herself and four siblings. By her teenage years she was touring around the country.
She recorded her first records when she was 29. She recorded at least 80 records during her lifetime, working with such notable musicians as Louis Armstrong, Joe Smith, Charlie Green.